my life has not been without stress (i hear my girlfriends choking on their coffee at the understatement. hi ladies. hugs.) i don’t blog a lot about stress, so far, it seems, though of course anything is possible and i’m still pretty new on the blogging scene. as i sit here typing tonight, not my usual time of day to type, my son just having fallen asleep for the night, myself just having cracked open a beer (not my usual typing beverage), having simultaneously contemplated having been in a relationship with an alcoholic, as one does every time one opens a beer after having been in a relationship with an alcoholic… i realize that more often than not, i arrive here at the keyboard with my thoughts somewhat distilled down to a semi-polished thought (i’m not referring to my writing skill as semi-polished, just to be clear!), a “what i learned about myself during that experience” rather than a spewing of the experience itself. i have a best friend who receives the better part of the vent/rant/grit/gore/rawness that comes with a life-not-free-of-stress. i have several close mama friends i can turn to for stress-specific-to-mamahood. i have my journal, for those things that are so raw they can’t go anywhere else, certainly-not-on-your-life on a blog. i don’t tend to come here to process, though it does happen that i come here and just due to the nature of writing, some processing happens. all sorts of hyphens insert themselves as a side effect of processing. πŸ˜‰ but everything i come here with, my friends, is completely authentic. you are only getting a little piece of my truth, but it is most definitely my truth.

“you wouldn’t try to put the ocean in a paper cup.”

when i lay down to sleep at night, at age 32, i go through several minutes of unclenching. the way i apparently have always coped with stress and even minor details of life that aren’t even stressful, is by somatizing feelings. that is, instead of having emotions, i have bodily aches and pains. i store the emotional energy, rather than being a conduit for emotion to just flow in and out of. this is apparently one of a plethora of ways that traumatized people cope with the effects of trauma. i have not really figured out whether i am a traumatized individual or not, but let’s just say, too many of the symptoms fit to not at least consider it. it also seems clear that i am somewhat of an empath, which may seem counterintuitive given what i’ve just said about my lack of emotional iq, but i mean it in the sense that i experience emotions in a strong way, i am sensitive to many external things that bring on those strong emotions… but then instead of dealing with the emotional energy in an ideal way, i pack it up into little toxic pockets in my body. double whammy!

i am eternally grateful for yoga. since i began practicing yoga 5 years ago, i have at least become aware that i store toxic stuff in my body. at that point in time, i began the long process of trying to unclench my aching muscles, lengthen them, open my body back up, breathe, live. the first few months, yoga hurt. sitting up straighter hurt so badly.Β  every night i try to release the new things i’ve unintentionally stored throughout my day. as i lay down, i’m a crunched up practically quivering piece of jangled nerve, almost hovering over the flannel sheets, and as i breathe, i slowly loosen the knots with my mind, traveling around each part of my body, or at least as many as it takes to fall asleep. lying down beside a kiddo who will sense my jangled-ness has also been key to raising my awareness on this. i imagine it is the same for most children- he absorbs what i feel as there is as yet very little barrier in between us, and if i’m hovering off the bed with tension, he is not going to stay soundly asleep for long.

my friend vanessa has a really useful analogy of how she has reduced the backpack of baggage she carries through life to a fanny pack, but sometimes it feels as though she has simply packed it all in tighter so said fannypack is as heavy as lead. that’s my paraphrase anyway, or maybe how i saw my own life for a while, through that lens. i don’t feel my pack getting loads lighter as i evolve, either, but i am liking to think (to riff on the borrowed analogy) that my back pack full of baggage is being converted steadily to a tool pack. if i’m gonna be lugging stuff around, let it be useful tools to deal with potential baggage before it manifests any ugliness or gains any weight or lodges itself in my muscle tissue.

many of the tools i’ve gathered have to do with unclenching my body, unclenching my mind and soul in the process. i have found ways to lull my spirit. “i will go singing as the solitude sets in, in time with the rhythm of everywhere i have been.” i am learning to look at the ugliness, the “beautiful and grotesque” aspects of my past, as little rock cairns that show i was here and by extension, hey look how i’ve grown.

some of the tools are even more awesome, in that they help me actually feel the feelings as they come rather than store them to day’s end or until the next yoga class. i’m very much a novice at emotional awareness, but at least now i’m practicing. it’s like reporting your emotional weather on a regular basis, ideally minute to minute. noticing the feeling, watching it flow on through. bye bye. do not pass go. do not collect $200. do not go into storage in my neck/shoulders/lower back/hips/stomach/jaw/throat…….

i have had a few moments of insecurity recently about my blog, and it’s so funny because i have no idea if anyone is even reading it, beyond you few faithful devotees who seem like you love me even when i am at my ugliest… i have this motion picture in my head (roll camera…)Β  a woman sitting at her keyboard, with gazillions of readers waiting with bated breath for her next droplets of wisdom to go live, and she is blissfully unaware she has gazillions of readers, all of this happening on the screen while ani difranco rocks the soundtrack of course. i also have the more realistic vision of what this blog is: that this is really for me, and my audience is a few people like my bestie, a handful of my mama friends, and maybe my mom, if she has fast enough internet on a given day. ani is, of course, still rocking the soundtrack. speaking of ani, she is responsible for everything in quotes here in this post…

i obsessed a little with my bestie about my tagline and whether it seems too “labelly” and should i revise it. she assured me (as any bestie would) that it is a good balance of telling a little about myself and what i write about, it’s not about being a label, and changing it would be less authentic than (gasp) employing a label. it remains.

i never really set out to blog… it just sort of happened. 2011 just sort of came upon me in the same way. resolutions? intentions? what? where’d that year go?

“hour follows hour like water in a river

and from one to the next

we don’t know what each hour will deliver

we just call it like we see it

call it out loud as we can

and then afterwards we call it all water over the dam…”

when i think about things like trauma, i could easily go the route of being angry. i mean, i could sit here and rage on some people, right? “but you can’t place blame, cuz blame is much too messy. some is bound to get on you while you were trying to put it on me.” we are all wounded in some way, and it’s never done me any good to dwell on who done who wrong. (or is that who done whom…?)

“we make our own gravity to give weight to things

then things fall and they break and gravity sings

we can only hold so much is what i figure

try and keep our eye on the big picture

picture keeps getting bigger”

so, i totally don’t have any specific intentions that are new for right now, at the start of a new year. and here it is, already the 4th! but i look back at 2010 and realize, this year i really learned a lot about what it is like to live with intention on a (more) consistent basis. to me it means living with a design in mind, living with a vision of how i see things going, i hesitate to call it a “plan” but an awareness that each step i take is a decision i make, and i find that the awareness of the ability to make choices is so very empowering. it is really amazing how much things just flow along when i live intentionally. “and you know every time i move, i make a woman’s movement…” ok i’ll stop quoting lyrics now!

{most of the lyrics are from ani difranco’s hour follows hour, on this album. highly highly highly recommended!}

12 comments to unclenching

  • I don't think any of us share our Whole self in blogging, even in real life. There is a lot of vulnerability in that. I value authenticity above all else, but I don't need to know all of someone to feel connected. I think people can tell when someone is being authentic. And I think they can tell when people aren't. I've only ever read a handful of your posts but I've never felt you weren't speaking your truth. Your words ring true.

    Unclenching, ah yes. I taught yoga for 7 years and saw a lot of people go through what you are experiencing. It's incredibly painful to have held on to every bit of fear and anger and sadness, only to start to let it go. But how empowering to know that you have the choice to let it go. It's not serving you, so bid it adieu. Have you read Carolyn Myss' book, Anatomy of the Spirit? Incredible book. (It was required reading for my yoga teacher training.) She talks about how every experience creates a memory in our body, some good, some bad. The good ones (as I'm sure you've experienced) leave us feeling alive and light on our feet, so happy and full of joy. These feed our life and go on to influence others because we pass these good vibes on to all we meet. When we've had a bad experience, such as being in a relationship with an alcoholic, (I've been there too,) we are left feeling demoralized. No matter what the experience, the pain, trauma, the negativity, they get into our body and find a place to make a little home and they fester away of the years until eventually disease is formed. It's an increbile read and the stories of people who have come back from serious disease because they choose to speak their truth is inspirtional. Of course there are plenty of expamples of people who couldn't bring themselves to speak their truth and the ill-fate that awaited them was harrowing. You can find that book here, if you are intersted. She's got many great books and is one of my favourite spirtual writers/teachers.

    Making concious choices is the first step in freedom. We are the only ones who are in charge of our lives. No more blaming family upbringing, employers, or spouses. It's up to us. It sounds to me like you have all this figured out and it was really inspiring to read your post. Happy New Year, MB.

  • mb

    debbie- thank you so much for the affirming words, and the book recommendation! i will most definitely be checking that one out. (ok i just ordered it. love $0.01 used books! haha.) wow. we have a lot in common. πŸ™‚ i have to argue that i do not think i have this all figured out though! i have only recently come to these realizations about blaming, and i'm not even sure i'm achieving a perfect score in that department even now that i realize it's unproductive… it's a journey. anyway thank you so much for your kind words. πŸ™‚
    mb recently posted..unclenching

  • I'm a highly emotional person. Even though I don't intentionally hold things in, it happens some of the time, and I get the pain in my shoulders and neck. There is one spot in my shoulder that will become particularly painful when I'm really stressed about something. Weird how our bodies do that.

    This is the second blog I read today that mentioned living with intention. I believe you are so right about that. You say things just flow along…it's like life was just waiting for you to make up your mind or something.
    Lisa C recently posted..Michael’s First Yoga Class

  • i love this post πŸ™‚

    i resonate with it on so many levels, and feel so appreciative to read your words, how you've captured your thoughts and experiences which seem to speak for me, give me some relief in feeling heard, knowing there is a shared connection…

    my journey toward healing the body has been happening, too, and for me it came through my meditation practice, and then through focusing and hakomi. so much we carry! and i, too, could become angry or resentful, but i am so grateful that i don't, that even my body seems to know that there is something bigger, beyond just a person or what happens between two or a few people.



  • marybethrew

    thanks, stacy. πŸ™‚ i have been reading a little here and there (like your blog hehehe) on focusing and like what i see. i don't feel knowledgeable enough yet to even mention it in my post though i think i put it in as a tag. πŸ™‚ because it does seem to be so much about body awareness and emotional awareness…

    aww thanks readers. πŸ™‚ your comments are making me smile.

  • marybethrew

    lisa- yes! "it’s like life was just waiting for you to make up your mind or something." exactly.

  • lb

    this entry couldn't have come at a better time :o) i find that more often than not we are on the same wavelength. Miss you Boo Da Doo!

  • marybethrew

    love love LOVE you little bit! now where is your blog so i can find out how we are on the same wavelength. πŸ˜‰

  • I read it! And have never been here before, so you have another reader. In Ireland!!

    I totally identify the "does anyone read my blog" bit… I watch the numbers going up and up on my blogometer wondering who these people are, and feeling very happy that they are… but do they LIKE it? Do drop by!
    Lucy @ dreamingaloud recently posted..Wordless Wednesday

  • So beautiful and powerful. Thank you for your words. I, too, can be a clencher, and found myself clenching during my sleep starting just a couple of months ago. Then I *knew.* I feel it in my body and joints too, the pain I hold in, then, when I begin to release, the pain begins to go too … the physical AND emotional and mental pain. I love yoga … such a sweet practice, isn't it? And stilling my mind.

    Came here to visit this specific article through Mama-Om :).

    Much love,

    Juliana recently posted..i am a gemini- which means i am quite airy

  • marybethrew

    lucy- i have no idea how to operate any of the "site tracking" gizmos and the blogometer numbers had me kind of chuckling. so glad you stopped by- i have about 6 of your posts open in other tabs that i want to read so far! πŸ™‚

    juliana- yes indeed on the yoga. i don't think i could ever find the words to say how important it is in my life. πŸ™‚

  • […] :: She’s learning how to be a conduit for emotion to flow in and out of. […]

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